There’s plenty of heart-wrenching, tear-duct inducing inspiration on the net. You may be in the inspiration business?

Perhaps, as part of your remit, you’ve got to engage, provoke, seduce, persuade and inspire clients. Most business owners do – it’s the necessary process of converting prospects into paying clients.

But are we overdoing inspiration? Have we oversaturated the net and induced ourselves into a coma in the process? Are we doing people a disservice with too many pictures of clouds, kittens and perfectly placed lattes in too many manicured flat lay scenes?

Inspiration shouldn’t be cheap

Inspiration isn’t just about having an emotional response to something. You’re not inspired if you smile, cry, and feel the feels. You’re not inspired if you like, share, comment, and scroll on. You’re not inspired if life continues as before.

You’re entertained.

Our entertainment industry is increasingly insidious. We’re all producers. Our entertainment has layers, mash-ups and references, cross-cultural nods and global reach. We are all entertainers, in the industry of servicing each other with 24/7 content.

And so inspiration gets dumbed down. We want to be inspired; we want to inspire others. We jump to label emotional responses as ‘inspirational’ when they may just be … emotional responses.

Provoking action

We need to be provoked into taking action – that’s what differentiates entertainment from inspiration. Inspiration may start with conversations around a dinner table, but it turns into letters, protests, policy changes, intervention, change. The affects of inspiration is action.

Inspiration may lead business owners to quit their job, start new businesses, increase their prices, rebrand their business, fire painful clients, rejig their products and services. Inspiration may lead customers to get up an hour earlier, go to bed two hours earlier or several hours later finishing a marathon of activity. It may lead to difficult conversations with spouses, bosses and managers. It could lead to a new exercise regime or greater discipline with spending and saving. But it doesn’t lead to click, scroll and smile. Inspiration provokes action and change.

And entertainment

There’s nothing wrong with entertainment. Many of us consume the media wanting both information and entertainment, preferably skillfully combined. The mistake is interpreting entertainment as inspiration because we sell ourselves short. And, in the process, we’re selling our clients short, too.

It’s not enough to desire change. We can’t aspire forever. It’s not enough to consume business education courses, read dull business books and attend industry events with the view to ‘keeping abreast’ if things continue on as they’ve always done.

Ideas that are familiar and popular don’t provoke change. As Henry Cloud puts it, “we change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.”

To change behaviour – whether in public policy or private homes – we must provoke the pathos in people. And we can’t stimulate what isn’t already present. If your marketing tells a story that isn’t relevant to people, they will tune out and go elsewhere.

But the process of reminding people of their pain of staying where they are is where real inspiration happens. It’s not enough to be your own example. Your story is not evidence that others can have what you have too. Your life, enacted online, isn’t enough of an argument for why I should trust you.

To provoke change – to create real, long-lasting results for your clients – you need to stop entertaining and start inspiring. And that means having the difficult conversations about why people continue with familiar behaviour that they know doesn’t serve them. As business owners, we don’t only paint an aspirational future for people, we remind them of the pain they’re tolerating. Because inspiration is delightful, but then the necessary real work begins. And entertainment won’t keep them when real inspiration doesn’t.